The loss of a member is devastating to a band. Losing two usually marks the end, but Slipknot saw through the trying time to deliver one of their strongest albums yet. With the heaviness of Iowa and the melodic nature of All Hope is Gone, the band burns through fourteen songs filled with their anger, sadness, devastation, and exhaustion of the last couple of years. Slipknot have regained their passion for music. Unfortunately, it came out of a tragedy.
Slipknot’s 2008 release is the black sheep in their catalog. Many noted it was a move away from their nu-metal roots to a more standard metal sound with lots of melodic elements. Fans were split on the release and turns out the band didn’t like it very much either. If anything, it sounds like they released the album because it was time for new music, not because they wanted to. That isn’t the case this time around. The band is obviously full of passion and fire, despite losing two members. You can easily hear it on tracks like “The Negative One” and “Nomadic.” It’s as if they’re ready to share their feelings with the world and fans are in for one hell of a ride.
The unnerving “XIX” sets the ominous and dark tone for the album, especially with the humming bagpipes that give you goosebumps. Corey Taylor sounds wounded and vulnerable as he sings “With my face/against the floor/ I can’t see who knocked me out of the way,” hinting at how painful the rest of the record is going to be. He then cries “Walk with me/walk with me/don’t let this fucking world tear you apart.” It’s a brief track, but one that lets fans know what they’re in for. “Sarcastrophe” is one of the many songs that has the brutality found on their second release. It has a slow, concentrated opening before punching you in face with squealing guitars and pounding drums. The heavy aggression continues on the excellent “AOV” that boasts a chugging guitar riff and rolling drums. Taylor’s always been a talented singer, but he sounds downright venomous as he spits “kill myself/fuck myself/or tell myself/about the only thing that matters now.” He then balances his growls with his soft, melodic vocals mixing the light with the dark. Both are great tracks showing the band getting reacquainted with their roots.
“The Devil in I” is another great song that uses both of Taylor’s vocal styles. The way the music comes rushing at you sounding gritty and dirty, you don’t expect any softness until you hear the verses. What’s great about it is the music slows down with Taylor, slowly building back up, and explodes during the choruses. After hearing all the aggression on the other tracks it may take a bit to grow on you, but you can’t forget it once it does. “Killpop” stands out on the most on the album because it’s the lightest song here. It’s more melodic, but it doesn’t make it any less dark. The lyrics paint a disturbing picture as Taylor sings “Maybe I should let her go/but only when she loves me” hinting that she’s being held against her will. It gets even worse later when he screams “Now die and fucking love me” as everything reaches its breaking point. “Custer” has to be one of the heaviest songs on the album, whose subject is reminiscent of “People = Shit.” What makes it so notable is the violent chorus of “cut cut cut me up/fuck fuck fuck me up.” It’s so fucking intense you’re ready to go to war with them.
A lot of the album revolves around the 2010 death of Paul Gray, expressing their confusion, anger, and sadness for his loss. Some of the tracks are directly aimed at him like “Skeptic,” where the band talk about how much they miss him and how their world is smaller without him around. What’s great about the song is it’s them saying how much they love Gray in their own way. It’s not sappy or cheesy; it fucking rocks and it’s probably what Gray would’ve wanted. They tone down on “Goodbye,” which sounds like a eulogy for his death. While it’s the softest song on the record it doesn’t keep the pace for long as the music gets heavier and more upfront, but it never loses focus. Hearing these songs let’s you know just how painful his death was and how they’ll never forget him.
Aside from the songs mentioned above, there are other slow moments on the album in the forms of “The One that Kills the Least” and “If Rain is What You Want.” Slipknot has never been shy about making low key songs, but on their last album they made ballads that grew dull after a while. Here, the slower tracks are similar to those found on their earlier LPs: brooding, dark, but still heavy as fuck, especially the latter song. It begins with an ominous riff that sets up a haunting mood. Midway through, the music can’t contain itself and burst into madness and aggression. Everything sounds as if they’re exhausted with their feelings and are squeezing every last drop of frustration out of them. This way the songs are never dull and keeps the listener on their toes.
Overall, the album gets 9/10. The album is stellar and finds the band returning to their heavier sound, which fans have been craving for a long time. They’re out to show people they still have the passion and heart for music despite losing two key members. Several of the songs reference what they’ve been going through since 2010 and you can hear how they’re still affected by it in the heaviness and brutality of the music. Not only do they honor Paul Gray, they show the world Slipknot can’t be beaten down that easily.